What you need to know before you go to the Ohio State Fair

The Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio has been a family tradition since 1850.

To make the most out of your visit, I’m sharing tips and what you need to know before you go for families attending the fair in 2023.

SkyGlider at the Ohio State Fair

When is the Ohio State Fair?

The Ohio State Fair will take place July 26 – August 6, 2023.

18 Tips For A Great Visit to The Ohio State Fair

Plan ahead and use these tips before you go to the Ohio State Fair.

crowds at Ohio State Fair

1. Dress for Comfort

Comfort is key because you will be putting on a lot of miles during your visit. Wear breathable clothing and comfortable shoes. Don’t forget sunscreen because it can get HOT.

visit Ohio State Fair

2. Bring Bottled Water and Snacks

You are allowed to bring food and non-alcoholic drinks to the fair. Save money by bringing your own water and then you can enjoy more vendor foods. I suggest packing a small backpack.

*No glass containers are permitted.

3. Visit the ATM Before You Arrive

Most of the vendors only take cash. If you do need to use the ATM at the fair you will be charged a $5 service fee on top of any additional fees from your bank.

*All Ohio State Fair rides and games are cashless.

4. Bring a Battery Charger for Your Phone

Your battery life can go down quickly during a long day at the fair. Pack a power charger so that you can stay connected and still take pictures while you are at the fair.

walking at Ohio State Fair

5. Bring a Stroller or Wagon for Younger Kids

You don’t want to have to carry kids and a bunch of stuff at the end of the day. Make your life easier by having an option for kids who grow tired. If you forgot your stroller at home, there are rentals available at the fair.

Ohio State Fair app

6. Download the Ohio State Fair App or Take a daily schedule with a fair map

Make sure that you check out the daily schedule so that you don’t miss any of the events that your family would be interested in.

I would recommend downloading the Ohio State Fair App so that you can easily access all of the info on your phone. The app has the most up-to-date daily schedule, an interactive map, photo filters, audio tours, and more.

There are lots of free events and activities going on throughout the day. Use the schedule and map to help plan out your day and avoid a lot of backtracking.

7. Set a Spending Budget

Help your kids understand their options and let them be a part of the decision-making process. This is especially helpful when it comes to sampling different types of foods at the fair.

Share items so that you can sample more or allow each person to choose a few items that they really want to try on their own.

shuttles Ohio State Fair

8. Drop a Location Pin or Take a picture of where you parked

It’s easy to forget where you parked your vehicle when you are surrounded by hundreds of cars.

You can use Google or Apple Maps to pin your exact parking lot location.

Take a picture and also take advantage of the complimentary shuttles to and from the parking lot to the gate entrance.

General parking is free to fairgoers in the main lots north of the Cardinal Gate.

9. Establish a Plan Ahead of Time in Case Someone in Your Party Gets Lost

Communicate to your kids what to do if they get separated from you. There are lost kid stations located at the park.

10. Younger families: Be on the lookout for Infant Care and Nursing Stations

There are several infant care and nursing stations located at the fair where you can change a diaper or enjoy privacy if you are a nursing mom.

  • Bricker Market Place Building
  • Kasich Hall
  • Kiddieland
  • Taste of Ohio Café
French waffle at the Ohio State Fair

11. Sample the Ohio State Fair Foods

No visit to the fair is complete without trying some of the fair food! There is an Ohio State Fair app to help you locate your favorite fair foods and other points of interest.

12. Use This Resource for Guests With Special Dietary Restrictions

There is a full list of specialty dishes for dietary restrictions in the Ohio State Fair app.

Guests with special dietary restrictions will still find plenty of vendors at the fair with the following options:

  • Dairy-free
  • Tree nut free
  • Egg-free
  • Sugar- free
  • Gluten-free
  • Wheat free
  • Peanut free
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan

13. Save on Food Samples – $3 Thursdays

Don’t miss $3 Thursday on July 27 and Aug. 3! On both Thursdays of the Ohio State Fair, all vendors will be offering a menu item of their choice at a smaller size for just $3!

This is a great way to sample more of the 14 options for signature fair food.

food vendors at Ohio State Fair

2023 New Foods to Try at the Ohio State Fair

  • Avalanche Floats – Funky Flamingo
    Choose from a variety of frozen fruit flavors.
  • Build Your Own Cookie Sandwich – Funky Flamingo
    Build your own cookie sandwich with a variety of flavors and options.
  • Cookie Dough Explosion – Funky Flamingo
    A freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie, topped with a salted caramel gelato, scoops of cookie dough, and covered in hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, and Oreos.
  • Crawfish Bowls – Big G’s Food Service
    Boiled crawfish mixed with corn and vegetables.
lemon meringue deviled eggs at Ohio State Fair
  • Deviled Eggs – Ohio Poultry Association
    Try the traditional side dish with a new twist. New flavors rotating daily: cotton candy, lemon meringue, chocolate, s’mores, Mexican street corn, everything bagel, honey fig blackberry, maple bacon jalapeño, sweet Korean, crunchy chili, tomato bacon ranch, and Greek deviled eggs.
  • Dipped Cookie Dough – Funky Flamingo
    Edible cookie dough dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with your favorite traditional toppings.
  • Dipped Fruit – Funky Flamingo – Fruit dipped in chocolate and covered in your favorite traditional toppings.
  • Flaming Hot Cheeto Burger – Dickerson & Kenna
    Spicy burger made with flamin’ hot Cheetos.
  • Fresh Squeezed Blue Raspberry Lemon Shakes – Prowant Speciality Company
    Lemon and blue raspberry shake drink
  • Gelato Tacos – Funky Flamingo
    A cold spin on the Mexican meal with a variety of classic toppings.
  • Gelato Nachos – Funky Flamingo
    A delicious sweet treat with gelato.
  • Giant Shaved Gourmet Ice – Concessions by Cox
    New unique shaved ice flavor options include mango with spicy chamoy sauce, chili/lime seasoning (including a tamarind candy straw), maple bacon, Orange Creamsicle, Shark Attack, Nerd-iac, and toppings like fresh fruit and sweet cream and candies.
  • Homemade Gelato – Funky Flamingo
    Enjoy a variety of flavors for this traditional Italian dessert.
  • Mac and Cheese Bowl – Concessions by Cox
    Mac and Cheese with a variety of toppings such as roast beef, buffalo chicken, bacon, chili, green onions, crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and jalapeños.
  • Nacho Sundae – North American Food Service Inc.
    A unique spin on a classic sundae involves broken waffle cones as chips and hot fudge and caramel whipped cream as the nacho toppings. *Nuts are optional
  • Tornados – Funky Flamingo
    A whipped, soft-serve treat with your choice of toppings.
Schmidt's Sausage and Cream puff at the Ohio State Fair

Our Favorite Classic Fair Foods at the Ohio State Fair

A few of our favorites during our previous visit to the Ohio State Fair were

  • French waffles
  • “Pig Wings” and Pork lender loin on a stick at Ohio Pork
  • Dole Whip
  • Lemon Shakeup
  • Bacon wrapped deep fried Oreo
  • Deep fried Buckeye
  • Ice cream sundae funnel cake
  • Schmidt’s Sausage and cream puff

A few other noteworthy fair foods are

  • Roasted Corn
  • Deep fried taco
  • Donut Burger
  • Cheese Curds
  • Tater Tots
Smokey the Bear at the Ohio State Fair

14. Take Pictures with a Few of the Icons at the Ohio State Fair

It’s fun to compare pictures over the years with some of your favorite icons if you visit the Ohio State Fair annually with family or friends.

butter cow at the Ohio State Fair

Be on the lookout for the following Insta-worthy icons at the Ohio State Fair:

  • Butter Cow
  • Ohio sign
  • Smoky the Bear
  • Red Cardinal
cow in barn at the Ohio State Fair

15. Visit the Animals and Ask Questions

There is no such thing as a stupid question!

Learn more about the animals and farm life from the people that you meet inside the barns and get a greater appreciation of what goes into the meaning of farm to table.

fishing at the Ohio State Fair

16. Visit the Natural Resources Park

This park is such a gem and almost makes you forget that you are still at the fair.

The Natural Resources Park is operated by the Department of Natural Resources and provides guests an opportunity to connect and learn more about nature with hands-on activities and exhibits.

kayaking at the Ohio State Fair

Kids under 14 can learn to fish along with other outdoor activities.

The natural environment is extremely relaxing and a wonderful place to enjoy time reconnecting with nature.

There is an aviary, animal rescue, butterfly house, playground, archery range, and many hands-on learning areas.

art exhibit Ohio State Fair

17. Don’t Forget the Exhibit Halls

There is a lot of talent on display in the exhibit halls. Take a few moments and enjoy the creativity on display in a variety of mediums.

Giant slide at the Ohio State Fair 1

18. Purchase a Ride All-Day wristband if you plan on riding a lot of rides

There is a greater value for wristband purchases if you plan on going on a lot of rides. If your kids can ride the rides by themselves you might not need to purchase one for yourself.

*Wrist bands do not work for the SkyGlider ride.

I love the Ohio State Fair

Find More Information on the Ohio State Fair

You can find out more information on the Ohio State Fair website.

Thanks again to Ohio State Fair for hosting our visit. 

What you need to know before you go to the Ohio State Fair in Columbus

2 thoughts on “What you need to know before you go to the Ohio State Fair”

  1. Sadly, the Ohio State Fair app you recommended has very little info on it. No info on food, no lists of vendors, not really anything of use there except a non-interactive map. It other info you provided is useful!

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